New VMS Board Members

May Shihadeh
Lesia Kohut

VMS would like to welcome Lesia Kohut and May Shihadeh to the board.

Lesia replaces Yavhel Valasquez, who has been with the board since 2018 in the non-affiliated seat. A Licensed Spiritual Practitioner and Integrative Nutritional Health Coach, with a degree in Advanced Consciousness Studies, Lesia brings together her backgrounds in spirituality, holistic wellness, food, music, sustainability, and experience as an entrepreneur in her ongoing journey of spiritual exploration and personal growth.

May Shihadeh will be joining us in the Muslim seat, replacing Moussa Magassa. The board looks forward to working with May, who is also a member of the Sunni Muslim community. May is a student at Royal Roads University in the Masters of Art in Intercultural and International Communication program, a member of more than ten organizations in Greater Victoria, a Community Advocate representing the Muslim Community, interpreter (Arabic/English), researcher and entrepreneur. 

According to VMS by-laws seats are assigned to members of specific spiritual communities: Indigenous Spirituality, Bahá’í, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh and a Non-affiliated seat. Board members normally serve 4-year terms.

We’d like to warmly thank Yavhel and Moussa for their time with the Victoria Multifaith Society board over the past 4 years. We’re sincerely grateful for their many services and wish them all the best in the future.

Anti-Racism Toolkit Launch!

For over a year, VMS and the Centre for Civic Religious Literacy, along with 2 advisory groups and 22 reviewers, have been working together to create the Learning Anti-Racism Toolkit. We’re happy to report that we now have a Launch Date.

On Tuesday 29 March, from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. online, we will host the “Introduction to Learning Anti-Racism”, providing an overview of the Toolkit and modeling the first of its eight workshops, The Human Family. We welcome everyone interested in this important issue to take part in the launch event and be inspired!

Please register here with Eventbrite to receive the Zoom link as well as the “pre-workshop” materials. These are links to online resources from TED talks to TV shows to articles and videos, curated to provide knowledge and insight into the subject.

Our hope is that at least some of those who attend this event will want to download the Toolkit and consider starting their own groups. The Toolkit includes:

  • Sessions on anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism, Islamophobia, antisemitism and anti-Asian racism
  • Step-by-step instructions
  • Links to online resources
  • Facilitator’s guidelines and a glossary

A brochure about the Toolkit on how it’s designed to be used is at this link.

For the complete Toolkit & Facilitator’s Guide go to this link to download copies.

We’re grateful to the Vancouver Foundation and the BC Multiculturalism Branch, for their funding, encouragement and support for this project.

Register for the 29 March Launch with Eventbrite at this link.

Spirit, Oneness & Climate Justice

In honour of World Interfaith Harmony Week, 2-2-2022

Thank you to all who participated in Spirit, Oneness and Climate Justice, as well as our wonderful panelists (Janet Gray, Sharon Welsh and Tony Snow), our MC Farouk Mitha, and zoom host Henri Lock. We’re happy to present the above recording of the presentations.

A climate-related informational handout for the event is at this link. Enjoy!

Spirit, Oneness & Climate Justice

Each year we celebrate World Interfaith Harmony Week in early February, and this year we’re coming together to discuss an incredibly important issue. It’s one that has shaped our year and is set to be increasingly at the forefront in years to come: the climate crisis. 

We’ve chosen to approach Spirit, Oneness, & Climate Justice from several complementary angles, with panelists from different backgrounds and perspectives. Each will speak briefly on both the practical and spiritual aspects of this existential challenge. (See below)

Please register through EventBrite here, to receive the zoom link for this online event.

Our MC for the evening will be Dr Farouk Mitha from the UVic Faculty of Education. The event will run from 7 to 8:30 pm, with time for Q & A and small breakout rooms to discuss reactions and insights.

Spirit, Oneness & Climate Justice will be hosted by the Victoria Multifaith Society and co-sponsored by the UVic Multifaith Centre and the Community Partnership Network of the Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria.

Annual Meeting 2021

VMS held its AGM on 2 December, 2021, online. Guest speaker, May Shihadeh spoke on “Countering Islamophobia”.

The election of 3 board members was confirmed: Ora Stefanic, David Batterham and Jagir Virk, as well as the announcement of the newly appointed member Shrikant Shenwai, who replaces Sridevi Ganti in the Hindu seat.

Shrikant serves on the Board of Victoria Hindu Parishad & Cultural Center. Born in India, he moved to Victoria in 2012 after 15 years in Singapore where he was responsible for starting and running a non-profit wireless industry organization.

Click here for the full Annual Report.

Countering Islamophobia: AGM 2021

an anti-racism initiative to showcase Islam and the Muslim population of Canada

Our Annual General Meeting for 2021 on the theme of “Countering Islamophobia” is scheduled to be held online on Thursday, 2 December, at 7:00 pm. VMS Chair, Dr John Borrows, will act as our MC for the evening. Please register early with EventBrite .

The first part of the AGM will be devoted to our theme, with a guest presentation by May Shihadeh. May is a Masters student at Royal Roads University in Intercultural and International Communication, a member of more than ten organizations in Greater Victoria, a Community Advocate representing the Muslim Community, and a Refugee expert, Settlement Worker, Interpreter, researcher and entrepreneur.

The second part of the meeting will be devoted to a short review of VMS activities and plans, and confirmation of the appointment of several new Directors. 

The Zoom link will be sent closer to the date to all those registered with EventBrite.

Indigenous Health: A Call to Action

Video presentation, 32 min.

VMS presented its first anti-Indigenous racism workshop, in collaboration with our Interfaith Liaisons Network, on October 25, 2021. Special thanks go out to Karen Pruden Shirley whose presentation is featured in the above video.

The online event looked at the 6 Truth & Reconciliation Commission Recommendations regarding health, briefly assessing challenges and progress, with discussion questions addressed in small groups.

Prepared by VMS for the workshop:  6 Health-related TRC Calls to Action  (Video, 2:44 min.)

Over 100 people registered, with 60 attending. Many expressed appreciation for the material, with several emphasizing the need for education for youth and adults across Canada on this and other Indigenous issues, to promote awareness and healing.

The workshop is one of a series being developed on various aspects of racism, including Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, anti-Asian, anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism. The series is due to be released in early 2022 and can be used independently by small or large groups, either in person or online. Please sign up at victoriamultifaith@gmail.com to receive notification.

Anti-Indigenous Racism Workshop

VMS is happy to offer this innovative workshop that takes a look at Indigenous racism in Canada through the lens of health, rights, spirituality and social change.

The 90-minute interactive workshop uses video, presentation and discussion to appeal to all ages and backgrounds. It will be held online from 3:30 to 5 pm on Monday, Oct. 25, 2021, offered free of charge through the Interfaith Liaisons Network of the Victoria Multifaith Society. Register here through EventBrite.

Karen Pruden Shirley

We’re very fortunate to have Karen Pruden Shirley to facilitate the workshop. Karen is a member of the Métis Nation from a large extended family with roots deep in the Red River Settlement in what is now known as Winnipeg.
Karen was the first Indigenous woman graduate of UBC Law School to be called to the Bar in British Columbia. In 1986, she and Sq’ewqeyl First Nations member and former BC Lieutenant Governor Steven L. Point founded the first BC law firm having both all-Indigenous lawyers and all-Indigenous staff. She later served for almost 25 years with the Department of Justice Canada, retiring in 2015.

The workshop is part of an anti-racism resource series currently being developed by VMS in conjunction with a collaborating organization in Montreal, the Centre for Civic Religious Literacy, with funding through the Vancouver Foundation and BC Multiculturalism. 

Changes to VMS board

There have been several recent changes in membership to the board of the Victoria Multifaith Society, with three members having been added since our last AGM.

David BatterhamOra StefanicJagir Virk
Sheila Flood

Thanks go out to several members who have served on the board: Sharon Kobrinsky, who has stepped down and been replaced by Ora Stefanic in the Jewish seat, and Parminder Virk, replaced by Jagir Virk in the Sikh seat. David Batterham currently occupies the Bahá’í seat, replacing Sheila Flood, who has been named the Society’s first Executive Director. The process of board membership is normally by recommendation of the outgoing members combined with board interviews and ratification at the following AGM. We are currently seeking Buddhist and Hindu nominees if VMS supporters would like to put names forward.

The board’s email address is victoriamultifaith@gmail.com Terms are typically 4 years. Present officers are: Chair, John Borrows; Secretary, Henri Lock; Treasurer, Ora Stefanic.

To our Indigenous and Muslim Neighbours

The Victoria Multifaith Society was shocked and saddened at the horrific revelation of the mass graves of Indigenous children in Kamloops. We have now been again deeply dismayed at the news of the hate-motivated act of violence against an innocent Muslim family in London, Ontario.

No words are adequate in times of such pain. As members of the Sikh, Hindu, Buddhist, New Thought, Bahá’í, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and Indigenous communities, we would like our Indigenous and Muslim neighbours to know that we stand with them in solidarity and shared humanity.

We wish to call these acts of racism, past and present, what they are. They have underlined the need to work all the harder in our anti-racism work and increase our efforts to create a healthier society that celebrates both our essential unity and our immense diversity.

We all need to look at our hearts, our speech, our actions, to be constantly vigilant against hatred or prejudice towards any group or individual, instead seeking in whatever large or small ways we can to heal these social ills.

In many of our sacred teachings, the Creator is the source of all love. The sentiment is not uncommon that “…love is light, no matter in what abode it dwelleth; and hate is darkness, no matter where it may make its nest”. No matter what our personal beliefs, may we all draw strength from our common spiritual values and seek to reflect that love.